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Two UW researchers aim to study how current economic disruption is affecting kids

Damian Dovarganes
AP Photo
FILE: An adult and a child, both wearing face masks amid the coronavirus outbreak, carry bags in the Chinatown neighborhood of Los Angeles.

 UPDATE, 7:02 pm: Adds information about other UW researchers contributing to the project.

The pandemic is having profound effects on children, with everything from school disruptions to limited opportunities to play with other kids.

Economic insecurity is also taking a toll, and that’s the focus of two University of Washington researchers.

Soojin Oh Park and Holly Schindler both teach in the UW’s College of Education. They’re preparing to survey hundreds of families in King County in collaboration with researchers doing the same in North Carolina, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. 

Researchers from UW's Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, Department of Sociology, Department of Psychology, Department of Epidemiology and Center for Studies in Ecology and Demography are also contributing to the research. 

Park, an assistant professor in early childhood and family studies, said they want to find out how the pandemic has affected family finances and how children are faring at home and at school. She said one of their hypotheses is that gaps in educational outcomes that already exist will widen because of the disruption from the pandemic.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to get their school grades, achievement tests as well as teacher reports, not only now, but moving forward,” she said, adding that they’ll be surveying families again three and nine months from now to track changes and hope to secure funding to continue the study beyond that.

Park said they’ll also be examining parent-child relationships and mental health and stress levels.

“How might parents’ health, physical health, mental health and psychosocial wellbeing and their parent-partner relationships permeate into shaping their interactions with children?” she said.


In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.